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  • Anjana Kundu

Your Safety During Protests

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

Disclaimer - The intent of this post is to simply provide some safety information. This is neither an endorsement nor condemnation of anyone’s choice.

Photo Credit: Wichita Falls Times Record

Hi there everyone! I hope this finds everyone safe in this time of turmoil and unrest we are experiencing in our country right now in this time of protests. None of us are immune to the events of the past week, especially as the tensions mount in response to racially motivated events including the very public death of an African American man, George Floyd, in Minnesota on May 25th. This comes with the backdrop of the hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. People’s emotions were already raw, so to witness a man’s death really tipped the scale for a majority of Americans. They have taken to the streets to display and express their disappointment, anguish and frustration, most of them peacefully. However, as the nature of protests goes, it is an expression of frustration and a sense of perceived injustice, thus can be charged emotionally. Add to that, the variable human nature, there was bound to be a display of a spectrum of emotions and behaviors. During protests, there are bound to be 2 sides, at least; those who are protesting and those who are trying to stop the protests or ensure that there’s maintenance of some law and order even during that time. If there’s a perceived conflict, things can get out of hand as have all seen, read, or heard.

Now, this situation may invoke a variety of different emotions for everyone. We are not here to judge the validity of what or how you feel about this. Personally, we at Proactive Pain Solutions stand with the belief that EVERY human being and every life deserves dignity, respect, and equitable treatment and therefore support the tenet of the Black Lives Matter movement. Regardless of where you stand, the impact of the recent protest is felt by everyone. If you’re directly involved or affected, we wanted to review some of the basic safety measures during the protests.

Whether you are actively out there protesting or wondering what to do if you, your child, or a fellow protestor comes in contact with tear gas, mace, or rubber bullets, here are some tips to effectively deal with situations that may arise while protesting

  1. Safety from COVID-19. Remember we are still dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic and it still remains a threat. To prevent the spread of the disease, always wear a mask if you’re protesting or in the vicinity of a protest. Maintain a safe distance, if possible, especially those not wearing masks. Stay home if you or someone in your house is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

  2. Dress appropriately. Although it is summer now in the northern hemisphere, you may want to consider wearing long sleeves. Skin irritants, such as mace and tear gas, are being fired on crowds around the country, so it is best to cover your skin to prevent or minimize the impact of chemical burns/irritation. Comfortable shoes are also a must. Have something you are comfortable walking in for long periods of time.

  3. Eye Safety. Avoid wearing contact lenses as they can be dangerous if you’re exposed to mace or tear gas. Contacts can be hard to remove, trap those chemicals in/on your eyes, and worsen the effects. Goggles that cover glasses or your eyes, and are well-fitting like swimming goggles, protect the eyes best even if they look ridiculous.

  4. In case of exposure of your eyes to mace or teargas or any irritants, here are some measures to minimize the impact:

    1. Avoid rubbing your eyes. Not only will you make it worse by rubbing, but you’ll also get the irritant on your hands and spread it further.

    2. Remove yourself or the affected person immediately to a place where they can be helped without fear/risk of someone stepping on them or you.

    3. Rapid blinking can help flush the irritant quickly, but given the strength of the mace or tear gas used to dissipate crowds by the police, this is unlikely to help much.

    4. Your best option is to flush it out quickly with water or saline. It’s best to pour a small steady stream, with the affected person’s head tilted to the side away from the tear duct (which is close to the nose), then repeat it with the other side tilting the head to the other side.

    5. DO NOT use milk, soap, baking soda or a lubricant in the eyes. These can actually hurt your eyes. Gentle baby shampoo may be the only exception and may help.

  5. Dealing with chemical burns. Prevention/avoidance is the best measure. But if you were exposed you can do the following:

    1. Move away to a safer location. Taking a higher ground in case of exposure to tear gas would help as the gas remains lower down.

    2. Use of thicker/protective gear like a mitten, welding gloves, etc. limit the damage.

    3. Remove any clothing that may have the chemical irritant on it. Take special precautions to not spread it to face and eyes. Put clothes in a sealed plastic bag or discard them.

    4. Wash the exposed area(s) immediately, preferably with soap and water (except the eyes).

    5. Seek medical attention in case of chemical burns, rashes, skin breakdown or in case of any breathing difficulties.

  6. Avoid wearing makeup as the oils in makeup can mix with tear gas or mace and worsen the effects on your skin. But be sure to put on sunscreen, preferably a water-based one.

  7. Find a comfortable safe place to sit/stand. Bring a seat or cushion, orthotics, etc. and ensure that you or your child don’t overexert and risk worsening your/their pain.

  8. Stay hydrated.

  9. Prepare for a secondary way home. In case you are in a position where you cannot access your car or a way home, always have an emergency contact who’s ready to come and get you.

  10. Know your rights! It is your constitutional right to protest peacefully. Write on your arm an emergency contact number or the number of a local organization that can help you out in case you get arrested since you may not have access to your personal phone anymore.

If you wish to learn more about safety during protests, here is a helpful article.

If you wish to support the cause of the protestors, here are some links you can check out:

Whatever you choose to do, stay safe and healthy everyone!

If you have a safety tip, please share it in the comments below!

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